Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Toddlers Know Best

Why is it that toddlers think they know better than their 30 plus year old mothers?

Today I thought we could enjoy the beautiful 54 degree weather (12 C) by playing in the park for a while after I picked A up from school. A thought it was a fun idea, he asked that we stop by the house to pick up a few trucks and I grabbed our fleeces. Once we got to the park, A decided he did not want to wear his fleece. It may be nice out, but it's not that nice. I told him he could either put the fleece on or go back home, and I was treated to a major tantrum. I put him back in the car, and when he finally calmed down, he said he wanted to go home. In his defense, he must have been pretty tired, because he fell asleep on the way home.
that darn fleece!

The problem is that he thinks he knows better than us most of the time. He has refused to wear slippers for the past year and a half, he wants to pick his own shirts in the morning, and he argues over the dumbest things. He has a book that has a picture of a vespa and motorcycle at the end. When we get to that page and I say "here's the vespa and the motorcycle", he says "no, two motorcycles". I answered, "no, it's a vespa and a motorcycle" and he looked at me with a patronizing look and said "no, two motorcycles, OK Maman?".
According to Dr Karp's book "The Happiest Toddler on the Block", toddlerhoood  is like the teenage years of young children. So I guess he's putting himself in opposition to assert himself, show that he's his own person. Most of the time, I just give up, because it's not worth getting into an argument over a vespa with a two-year-old. I stick it out when it's important (like the fleece). Basically, I pick my battles and hopefully sometime soon, he'll realize that his 35 year old mother may not know everything, but does know a bit more than he does, for now...

Did your toddler think he/she knew everything better? How did you handle it? When did it pass?

Monday, January 30, 2012

More Chick Hicks Love

Hope you enjoy hearing Chick's evil laugh...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Valentines Day!

Here's the Valentine's day card I made for SleepyPapa!

Window Hearts Valentine's Card
Shutterfly offers custom St. Patrick's Day cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

French Parenting vs. American Parenting

There are definitely differences in parenting between France and the US. Recently, one of my blogger-friends (Momjovi) tweeted me a link to an interesting blog post about it: Is Maman Mean or Magnificent?, and today, a friend of mine shared this article on Facebook. While I have thought about the subject for a long time, I had some reservations about writing anything about it here, because I was afraid of offending some of my friends. As a disclaimer, I don't think my friends raise their kids exactly the way the book and article describe, but I know there is some truth to them. Obviously, we all chose our own parenting paths, and I don't mean to judge others', just as I hope my friends don't judge mine too harshly... But after reading multiple posts and articles on the issue, I decided to add my two cents anyway.

The latest article talks about a new book that will be released in February, called “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.” It's written by Pamela Druckermann, an American who lives in Paris. I haven't read the book, but according to the article, it tells  us how the French, by being strict and not child-centered, raise better-behaved, more independent kids.
In my view, that theory is a bit restrictive. As I look at it, I think there are pluses and minuses in both cultures and there is a time to be "more American" and a time to be "more French". Am I more French or more American when it comes to parenting? let's see...

For full disclosure, I may have been raised in Paris, but I definitely come from a child-centric family, where concerns for my healthy development, happiness, and well-being came first. My mom's priority, being a single mom, was obviously to spend time with me. However, being polite was also a top priority, and I am pretty sure I was one of the best behaved children you have ever met, even though my mom NEVER used harsh discipline with me.

Regarding Discipline:

- I think it's a matter of age. I do not believe in being too strict with your children earlier on. Of course they need boundaries, but redirecting, instead of yelling (or even slapping, which was pretty common place in France when I was growing up.. not sure if it's still as popular now) has been proven to be more effective in the long run. I think that for the infant-toddler years, that strict "french method" is not the best. In my opinion, it negates the child's personality, and what these articles fail to mention, is the  lack of confidence many French people suffer from. Americans have many failings, but I am always amazed at their self-confidence (sometimes to a fault). That's what makes them creative and daring, which leads them to be great entrepreneurs. However, there are behaviors that are acceptable coming from a two-year-old, that are not from a seven-year-old. I have to say that in that regard, some American parents need to become a bit more forceful at some point...


I think it's more a problem of priorities than discipline. If some American children are sometimes rude, it's probably because manners aren't very high on their parents' priority list. I don't want to sound judgemental, but it is true that many Americans  (grown-up, that is) lack basic manners. How can you expect the children to have manners if their parents don't? So I disagree with the book's premise that it's harsh discipline that leads to well-behaved children.


- I do agree with the French that you should trust your child and let him/her spread his/her wings. I'm all for sleepovers, going on vacations with other families, going on school trips... at a certain age. Americans do have a tendency to baby their kids for too long. I think the layout of American cities is partly to blame for it, because it's hard to become independent when you always depend on your parents to shuttle you around, even to go to the movies when you are a teenager.
But, I don't think that leaving your kids to go on vacation for weeks when they are little helps with that "autonomy". Again, if I refer to my mother, she pretty much never left me for the first few years (except when she HAD to, like for work), but was fine with me going to spend six weeks with a family in California when I was 10 1/2. She didn't leave me, because she didn't feel like leaving me. I think that if parents want to do that, that's fine, but when people (mostly french) tell me I SHOULD go away somewhere "for myself", I just want to say "myself" doesn't feel like being away from my child when he is that young, there will be plenty of time for that later. Of course we all need time for ourselves and our couple, but I think the time I take to work, and a few nights out with my husband or with friends is plenty at the moment.

I also don't agree with the French perception that breastfeeding interferes with your independence. Honestly, if being "independent" from your infant child is more important to you than providing them with something that is clearly best for them, then maybe you shouldn't have children. (of course I understand that breastfeeding is not for everybody, I just don't think "independence" is a valid reason).

On another note, I also don't think letting young kids do whatever they please in the sandbox is a great idea, and I absolutely embrace the "American" idea of intervening, because if I didn't, my kid would probably have beaten up all of your kids by now, and I don't think that's OK (and you probably wouldn't either). My conversation with the other moms does not come ahead of telling my child that "it's not OK to kick people".

As for children behaving in restaurants, the truth is, most Parisians do not take their kids to restaurants when they are little. Actually, French restaurants often welcome dogs, but look at you funny if you bring your toddler. I think it's really nice the way American restaurants are family-friendly, I like to bring my son to restaurants, he's even learning to use chopsticks!

The bottom line:

I would like to hope I mix the best of both worlds in my parenting. I embrace most American views on toddlerhood and attachment parenting, but I also value good manners. A is still a bit rough around the edges for some stuff, but he knows to thank people (baby steps). I hope what I do now will lead to a happy, confident grown-up later on.
I do plan on encouraging his autonomy, when the time is right. So maybe, more American for the early years, more French for later...

Do you think one culture has it right? Are there things you like/don't like in the different approaches?

Monday, January 23, 2012

One of a Kind

I know every child is unique, but mine seems to be particularly intent on being different. If you think of something that kids are sure to love, there's a good bet he won't like it. It makes things tough sometimes, especially when we go visit people who try really hard to please him, and very little works.
He can also get excited about something, but if it doesn't match what he pictured, beware!
A's tastes are constantly evolving. When he started eating solids, he wasn't too difficult, but things he used to love don't work anymore, so here's a snapshot of his likes and dislikes:

What he doesn't like (in no particular order) :

- pizza
- mashed potatoes (and any thing mashed for that matter)
- soup
- chicken nuggets (not such a bad thing)
- most cakes
- sandwiches
- scrambled eggs
- pirates
- the zoo (so sad about that one!)
- dogs
- bouncy houses (expect after an hour of coaxing, and if he can jump with me)
- when I take pictures of him

his favorite pose when he seems the camera

What he (suprisingly) enjoys:

- sticky asian rice (particularly at sushi restaurants)
- broccoli and green beans
- hard boiled eggs and omlets
- pasta with ketchup
- playing with legos
- any type of car, truck, or construction vehicle
- bread with nutella
- Barnes & Noble

playing at B&N
- going to hotels and eating colored cereals there (cause he doesn't get them at home)
- Chick Hicks
- NASCAR racing (ugh! NOT happy about THAT!)
- Dunkin' Donuts chocolate frosted donuts with sprinkles
- Panera's candy cookie
- Lindt Chocolates (right now, snowmen and raindeer, but he won't eat santa because he's not a fan)
- a new found passion for popcorn
- vanilla ice-cream
- cats (so happy about that one!)

shows and books he enjoys this week:

- Chuggington, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. (after being favorites for several weeks, Dinosaur Train and Jungle Junction have fallen out of favor)
- L'Automobile, Splat the Cat

Do your kids have surprising likes or dislikes? Do their tastes change from one week to the other?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vanishing Naps

Most parents I know dread the idea of their kids not taking naps anymore. It's true that having an hour-and-a-half-to-two hour break in the middle of day can be pretty nice, but as we reach the point where naps are not always a given, I am actually kind of glad.

 As you already know, A has never been a good sleeper. The first year of his life, he only cat-napped, 10-15 minutes at a time, 30 if we were lucky. If I wanted him to sleep more, I had to either hold him or drive around for 2 hours. Then I quit my full time job and started spending naps in his room.  That brought on longer naps, but it's not like I could tend to the house or do whatever I pleased... Eventually, A settled into the routine, and I have been able to leave him alone in his room for nap time for almost a year, however, he usually wakes up crying and stays cranky for at least a half-hour.

For the past few weeks, A has, from time to time, skipped his nap. I still take him upstairs, and we read for a bit, but if he's still not asleep after a few books and wants to get up, I let him (well, what are my options exactly? strap him to the bed?). On those days, he actually has played nicely and stayed in a good mood for most of the afternoon ( better than the after-nap meltdowns). The other major plus, is that bedtime is A LOT easier on those days. Just a few poems and he's fast asleep.. nothing like the hour-long ordeal during which I often fall asleep myself.

So the pluses of the vanishing nap?
- better mood
- easier bedtime

the minuses?
- not quite sure which day he'll sleep and which day he won't
- I am a little afraid of going anywhere on the no-nap day, for fear that the car will put him to sleep

All in all, I look forward to the day when naps have totally vanished, so there's no question about it and we can go about our business, do fun things, and stay out all day if we feel like it!

When did you child give up his/her nap? How did you deal with the transition?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cheering for Chick

What is it about villains that make people like them anyway? Or maybe, people don't like them, and A is really confused. Let me explain. He likes the movie Cars, but unlike most kids, who have fallen in love with McQueen or Mater, my son's favorite character is.... Chick Hicks! I bought him a McQueen hat, and he asked me if the store had Chick hats too. I tried to explain to him that they don't, because people don't like Chick... because he's not nice, but A doesn't want to hear it.

When we play, he likes to pretend he's Chick. I usually have to be McQueen, and then Chick crashes into me. It's all good and fun, except that today, his teacher told me that he was doing it with the other kids in the gym, and that didn't go over so well... She explained to him that he was not a  race car and that we don't crash.
Why does my son like the villain of the story? Maybe it's hereditary... I did have a bizarre infatuation with Dallas' J.R. Ewing, back when I was 8 or 9 years old. When I watched The Shining, I was sad that Jack Nicholson got stuck in the ice, and I've always rooted for the shark in Jaws. The bottom line is that bad guys tend to be a bit more exciting, and that's probably the same with Chick.
I don't mind that A likes Chick, he just needs to understand that we should not behave like Chick...
I tried to ask him today why he likes Chick, this is what he said...
Me: A, do you like McQueen or Chick better?
A: Chick
Me: Why?
A: because he's nice
Me: really, what's his name?
A: Chick
Me: Chick who?
A: Chick nice

I was a bit surprised by his answer, because he usually says "Chick Hicks", squinting his eyes, like he knows it's bad and exciting at the same time... He also usually says he likes him because he bumps people, but he is  probably starting to change his tune as more and more people are telling him that bumping is not so nice...
So far, Chick is the only  villain he's aware of, other than witches, but he doesn't like them. I try to police what he watches as much as I can, and we usually watch Chuggington, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jungle Junction, or Dinosaur Train. All great shows that do not have bad guys.
I try to avoid watching Cars because he's really only interested in the beginning... the race where, you guessed it, Chick "bumps" the other cars. He gets giddy with excitement watching it, and I think it's not the greatest thing, and that he's still a bit young for that kind of thing, but this too shall pass, and as he grows he'll start being interested in more than just the crash parts.

Did your kids' favorite characters surprise you? Any tips on stopping the "bumping"?

Monday, January 16, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes

We've had an incredibly mild winter so far, but real snow finally came this past week. Last year, A hated the cold, we had a terrible winter, and I was really getting claustrophobic inside our house;  this post is proof  I was about to lose my mind Cabin Fever . It's just amazing how a child can change in a year.
This is what is was like this weekend here:

It snowed pretty much all of Friday and into Saturday morning, but in the afternoon, we caught a break and A couldn't wait to go play in the snow! It was not sunny, but not horribly cold.

We did some sledding, ran in the snow, and made sort-of snowmen...

We convinced him to come back inside and had some hot cocoa afterwards. It was great!

The next day was incredibly sunny. I just love seeing this view of my backyard when I get up!

But it was also terribly cold: -2 F (-15 C). I wasn't sure that it was such a good idea to head outside, but A begged and begged. So we thought that if we didn't stay outside too long, and he was well bundled up, it would be OK. A usually hates putting clothes on, but he understood that it was necessary and didn't complain. I have to say that the hood I bought from One Step Ahead is really perfect: it covers everything other that the face, including the neck!

We played with trucks in the snow for a while, then got some sledding in. It was really hard to get A to come back inside, he didn't seem to mind the cold one bit. Such a drastic change from last year, when he cried within a minute of being outside. I like this a lot better! I can't wait for him to be a bit older so we can actually try to ski or go to a real sledding hill.

What do you do to make winter fun with your kids?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Going to School

As I explained in yesterday's post, A started going to a little preschool in September. He started out going two mornings a week. He seemed to like it, but would always cry a lot when he got dropped off. SleepyPapa works near the school, so he's been on drop-off duty, and this crying business was very tough on him. The teachers said A was doing well, only cried for a minute after SleepyPapa left, and seemed happy. When I asked A at night what had been nice during the day, he would often say "school", but still, the tears kept coming in the morning. Things got a little better at one point, but shortly after, A got sick, skipped school a few days and it was back to square one.

We needed to switch him to four mornings a week for the Spring because my mom went back home and I will be teaching Monday through Thursday, but even though it's more school, it seems to make things a bit easier... A went four mornings in a row last week and day 4 of this week will be tomorrow. He still whines once or twice while getting ready in the morning, but happily jumps in SleepyPapa's truck, walks to his room without protest, and only once his dad says he needs to leave, tries to pretend he's crying.  In the afternoon, he tells me school was fun, but adds here and there that the teacher is "not nice", for good measure. (I think he knows he has to say something negative to support his whining). And... even though she's "not nice", he can't wait to show her his new shirts in the morning!

A concentrating at school

The bottom line is that four days a week seems to work better because it's more of routine, and there's no guessing whether it's a school day or not.

I think school is somewhat improving his social skills, he seems to get along fine with his classmates, and has even found a good friend. We have parent-teacher conference next week, so I'll find out more about his in-class behavior. What I really enjoy is that everyday we get a "toddlergram" which tells us how the day went, how the child behaved, how much he ate, and what his favorite activity was. A's favorite is usually "cars" or "outside". His behavior is often "happy, cooperative, chatty".

Overall I am really happy with our decision to send him to this little school, and I look forward to several more years there.

How old was your child when you first sent him/her to preschool? Did they cry? When did they stop crying?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Lunchbox Dilemna (I need Help!!!)

After a long break, I am going to try my hand at this again. The break was due to a crazy semester, during which I taught three 4-credit sections of French 201 at Syracuse University. I absolutely loved it, but it pretty much took up all of my time, and whatever was leftover was devoted to A... so the blog suffered.
A lot has happened since August.
- My mom came and spent the semester with us (because of the crazy workload). She really helped us out and it was great to have her with us.
- A started "school". In the fall he went two mornings a week, and my mom took care of him the rest of the time. This semester, my mom is gone, so he's going four mornings a week. More on this on a later post.
- A is potty-trained! (since October)
- we went to Orlando for a week (with no potty accidents) !

Anyway, to start things off again, I need all the help I can get. We obviously went from two lunchboxes to pack a week, to four, and A is a picky eater. So I am looking for suggestions.
Here are the parameters:
A does not like sandwiches or pizza
Meat is not allowed in the lunchboxes (not that he would eat it anyway)
They do re-heat stuff in the microwave for them

What I have been doing:
I have been alternating pasta that they re-heat, and a hard boiled egg and some bread. I also pack some baby carrots, a drinkable yogurt, some fruit and a fruitable juice box. He usually eats those fairly well.

I tried to change things a bit and packed some hummus and crackers yesterday. When I picked him up, he told me: "I ate all the crackers, but the hummus wasn't good, I like the hummus at home".
The other day, I packed some green beans (that he inhaled at home earlier in the week) and he told me :"I eat green beans at home, OK Maman?"
I am torn between continuing to try new things and just giving up and sticking to what works most days.

So, does anyone have any other suggestions? Should I just stick to what I have been doing?